Review Summary: The Kaiser Chiefs begin to find their true sound and produce many solid tracks that contain their trademark strengths. Unfortunately, interspersed amongst them are a number of genuinely poor songs.
Opening tracks can occasionally be used as gauges for an entire album, showcasing in a nutshell what is to come over the next half an hour to an hour. One such example is on the Kaiser Chiefs’ third album, ‘Off With Their Heads’. Opener ‘Spanish Metal’ wastes absolutely no time hooking in listeners as attention-seeking guitar and an organ arrangement sounding suspiciously like ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’ theme are immediately apparent. Harmonic vocals then enter the fray, before the cut seems to stall in a directionless rut mid-song. It then kicks back into gear with a heavier musical section, until failing to deliver a large enough payoff as the end comes abruptly and prematurely. The whole track almost eerily represents the quality of this album at various stages of its progression.
The first 5 tracks on this Mark Ronson produced album are actually rather strong, with the Leeds band seemingly finding their true sound at an effective mid-point between their first 2 albums. Lead single ‘Never Miss A Beat’ combines the fuller musical sound that was apparent on ‘Yours Truly, Angry Mob’ with an infectious chorus that reminds of their debut offering ‘Employment’. Spiky guitars, a thick riff and persistent drumming are all involved, while lead vocalist Ricky Wilson spouts out lyrics that ride a fine line between corny and perceptive. Commenting on the younger generation, we get lines such as “What did you learn today? I learnt nothing… What did you learn at school? I didn’t go”, before later concluding that it’s “cool to know nothing”.
The following 3 tracks are all solid… The Madness-like vocal patterns of ‘Like It Too Much’ is topped off nicely with strings and a melodic chorus. The bass and keyboard driven ‘You Want History’ includes a catchy, repetitive and synth-heavy breakdown. While ‘Can’t Say What I Mean’ is a telling combination of everything as Andrew White’s spiky guitars, Nick Baines’ effective keyboards and swirling synths come together impressively.
Unfortunately, ‘Off With Their Heads’ threatens to derail with two poor tracks placed together half way through the album. Rumored 2nd single ‘Good Days Bad Days’ is one-part corny and one-part childish. Meanwhile, ‘Tomato In The Rain’ is derivative to the extreme and not good enough to ultimately be worth it. With an opening 40 seconds that sounds like The Doors’ ‘Riders On The Storm’ and vocals that piece together a number of British acts from the 1960s (Beatles included), this could only have been at all useful as closing variation.
Thankfully, ‘Off With Their Heads’ gets back on track with energetic highlight ‘Half The Truth’, which contains all of the aforementioned musical strengths of the band, while also being well-structured. An almost fake chorus initially makes the true chorus (of “I will not lie to you, but I’ll definitely only give you half the truth") all the more effective. The cherry on top then comes in the form of an unpredictable, but successful, rapped verse by Sway DaSofa. The following ‘Always Happens Like That’ (which contains backing vocals from Lily Allen) is also solid in being similar to tracks 3-5.
The momentum cannot be continued through the final two tracks of the album though and penultimate track ‘Addicted To Drugs’ may actually be the LPs lowlight. Extremely difficult to take seriously, this is basically a joke of a song… Whether they were trying some sort of word-play on Robert Palmer’s similarly titled smash hit from the 1980s or not. Finally, the divisive Nick Hodgson (drummer) sung closer ‘Remember You’re A Girl’ is best left to individual listening tastes, being a Beatles-like ballad.
Like any half-decent band after their third full-length release, the Kaiser Chiefs are beginning to find their true sound and learn who their target audience is. There are more than enough positive signs on ‘Off With Their Heads’ to suggest that the band will only get better. Unfortunately, there are too many rough edges to this release to rate it too highly. The Kaiser Chiefs often fall well short when looking to diversify their sound and experiment. And when the album only lasts 35 minutes and contains no song over 4 minutes in length, that is a touch concerning. You can’t help but think that with only 20 months between releases, it was simply not enough time to rectify the deficiencies contained on this album.
Recommended Tracks: Half The Truth, Never Miss A Beat & Can’t Say What I Mean.